Getting Pregnant and Fertility Problems: Crohn's Disease
Many factors like illnesses can decrease the odds of getting pregnant. If you or your partner have Crohnï¿½s disease and are experiencing problems getting pregnant, speak to your health care provider or doctor for ways to improve your chances of getting pregnant.
This article provides an overview on Crohnï¿½s disease, the symptoms, and information on how Crohnï¿½s disease affects fertility and pregnancy.
What is Crohn's Disease?
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory disease of the digestive tract that can happen during any age, but often affects 15 to 35 year olds. The inflammation can occur in any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. However, Crohnï¿½s disease often affects the ileum, the lower part of the small intestine.
Causes of Crohnï¿½s Disease
Crohnï¿½s disease is an idiopathic disease, which means no known cause for it exists. Some theories suggest that Crohnï¿½s disease manifests as the bodyï¿½s response to an antigen such as an infection or virus. That is, the immune system produces an inflammation in the presence of an antigen in the digestive tract.
Researchers have found abnormalities in the immune system of individuals with Crohnï¿½s disease. However, they are not certain if these abnormalities cause Crohnï¿½s disease or whether they result from the disease.
Certain factors do put individuals at a higher risk of developing Crohnï¿½s disease than others. These risk factors include: having a family history of Crohnï¿½s disease, being of Jewish descendant, and smoking.
Symptoms of Crohnï¿½s Disease
The symptoms of Crohnï¿½s vary depending on where the inflammation in the digestive tract occurs and how severe the disease is. Common symptoms of Crohnï¿½s disease when it occurs in the ileum include:
- abdominal pain
- diarrhea (possibly with blood)
- weight loss
Treatment for Crohnï¿½s Disease
Crohnï¿½s disease is a chronic illness. All treatments for Crohnï¿½s disease focus on putting the disease into remission. Remission is known as the period of time where the individual does not experience any symptoms of Crohnï¿½s disease. Flare-up is known as the period of time when the symptoms of the disease become active.
Treatment options for Crohnï¿½s disease include medications, surgery, and nutrition supplements, or a combination of the three. What option your doctor recommends to you will depend on the location and severity of the disease and your medical history, as well as how you responded to previous treatments.
Along with a complete physical examination and medical history, a number of tests may be used to diagnose Crohnï¿½s disease such as a blood test or a stool examination. A blood test can be taken to check for anemia and an increase in the number of white cells, suggesting an inflammation in the body. A stool examination may be used to detect a presence of an infection or virus in the body.
Crohnï¿½s Disease and Female Fertility
Crohnï¿½s disease often affects women in the childbearing age. Studies looking at the fertility rates in women with Crohnï¿½s disease have found normal rates of pregnancy in women with inactive Crohnï¿½s disease during pregnancy. That is, women with Crohnï¿½s disease should expect to carry to term and deliver a healthy baby.
However, some studies show that women who had active Crohnï¿½s disease during the time of conception or a flare-up during pregnancy had a higher incidence of low birth rate, pre-term birth, and more complications at birth.
In addition, these women displayed a lower fertility rate. This reduced fertility rate may be explained by the symptoms of the disease, such as anemia and abdominal pain, which could have had negatively influenced a womanï¿½s desires and efforts of getting pregnant. This is because some women with Crohnï¿½s disease may possess a fear of intimacy or may experience dyspareunia - painful coitus.
Pregnancy and Crohnï¿½s Disease
Both obstetricians and gastroenterologists recommend women to treat active symptoms of Crohnï¿½s disease before planning a pregnancy. This is because when the disease is in remission, there is a lower risk of premature delivery and other complications that may arise due to the symptoms of Crohnï¿½s disease.
But, if you experience a flare-up during your pregnancy, donï¿½t be alarmed. Talk to your doctor about the risks associated with the forms of treatment used to combat the disease. Generally, medications such as sulfasalazine that are used to treat flare-ups are safe to use during pregnancy.
Crohnï¿½s Disease and Male Fertility
Crohnï¿½s disease affects male fertility differently from females. The medication, sulfasalazine that is widely accepted to treat symptoms of Crohnï¿½s disease in men, women, and pregnant women, may negatively affect sperm health.
A 2005 review in the International Journal of Gastroenterology on Pregnancy and Crohnï¿½s disease found men using sulfasalazine therapy had abnormal sperm morphology, reversible oligospermia, and lower sperm motility. Similarly, the National Infertility Association listed sulfasalazine therapy as one of the medications that may affect sperm quality.
Doctors may suggest men being treated for Crohn's disease to temporarily go off medication if his partner is having difficulty getting pregnant. However, talk to your doctor or health care provider before stopping medication.
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